Tag Archives: culture

Solidarity in the Diaspora + Africa

Yesterday I tried fufu for the first time, and it was pretty delicious. It wasn’t something I grew up eating in a Caribbean household. I didn’t learn anything about Africa in my home despite the fact that my family is very dark-skinned and obviously our roots are African. My family has always looked down on Africans and had some kind of crazy assumption that they all do voodoo. So, growing up, I never really learned about Africa. It’s only in the recent years that I’ve been learning about African history and African culture, and wishing genuinely that I had been more aware of African culture, and African history as well. Even now that I’m marrying a Ghanaian, other Ghanaians often seem surprised that I can speak Twi and I love Kumawood films. They believe that Canadians of Caribbean descent are not interested in Africa–but the truth is–many of us are shunning Eurocentric cultures and wish to connect with our roots in respectful and humble ways.

Solidarity between African-American, African and Caribbean people is needed more than ever. An achievement by a Black person should be seen as an achievement for us all, whether they came from Nigeria or Jamaica or Baltimore. We need to help each other out and unify. Americans need to tell Africans to boycott all the KFC restaurants popping up like crazy all over Ghana and other countries. That fried chicken is not linked to a better social status, however, it is linked to obesity and heart disease. It could be a very clever ploy to kill more Black bodies. If Africa wants first world social status, they need to get in on the organic health food kick, get in on fitness and things that will add years to your life–not end it. Africans that are making African languages accessible to the Diaspora, Africans that are collaborating in business and tech fields with Black people in the Diaspora are helping unify us and make us stronger. We have to learn about our different historical pasts, our unique cultures and find a way to connect.

We have a great advantage–numbers. When you combine all the Black people in Africa, the Caribbean islands, America and Brazil (and Canada–I mean hey, can’t leave myself out! Joking, but no, we are truly doing things in Toronto and Montreal due to the diversity there), you have numbers. Before another endemic happens that will be lethal to more Black bodies on any continents, we need to get together and make sure we have each other’s backs. There’s so much happening in the world that is ending Black lives–from police brutality to slavery in Libya to the “ideal” mulatto child that is erasing the Black race and replacing it with a much more palatable, bronze-skinned and ringlet-haired race. And it’s up to us to wake up our brothers and sisters, and just be like, “We have our differences, but I got you.”

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The African Diet

Part of the re-Africanization process is learning your culture, and your roots. You really couldn’t do that without paying attention to the food!It is true that Africa is not a country, but a continent, with many different cuisines. However, the basis of the African diet seems consistent as you can see here.

As the African Heritage Diet Pyramid illustrates, this diet is based on whole, fresh plant foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens; tubers like yams and sweet potatoes; beans of all kinds; nuts and peanuts; rice, flatbreads and other grain foods, especially whole grains; healthy oils; homemade sauces and marinades of herbs and spices; fish, eggs, poultry and yogurt. It’s naturally low in processed sugar, unhealthy types of fats, and sodium, and includes only small amounts of meats and sweets.

 

Common Foods of African Heritage

Growing up on a West Indian diet, we ate a lot of the foods that West Africans eat with the exception of fufu. We all have our variations of soups, stews and rice. And we tend to boil our provisions while West Africans tend to mash theirs. We also don’t use teff or sorghum. It’s very simple then, for a West Indian to adopt an African diet particularly since Caribean and African grocers offer many of the same foods, spices and oils. However, if you were raised on a more Western diet, it will take some time to learn to cook like an African.

I have made it a goal to perfect one new African recipe a month. This month I would start easy with omo tuo (rice balls) from Ghana, usually served with fufu and a variety of soups! It’s something I know both my son and I would enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From the Past

I’ve recently become interested in Chinese history, particularly the Second Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945. The unity and strategies of the Chinese people are truly admirable–despite their political differences, they still came together against one enemy: the Japanese. It’s something that Black people can really learn from. Chinese traditions and history runs deep, and these people know their culture. Unlike Black people, whose connection to their origins has been severed. It truly shows how important it is to know and honour our African traditions, and history. It is Chinese pride that kept the Chinese fighting stubbornly enough to gain allied help. It is African pride that should unite us all–and keep us fighting–for Black liberation.

We are so fragmented, all pitched against the other. Africans against West Indians, Black Americans against immigrant Black, etc. When will we understand we are all one and that we have a common oppressor? Of course, many Black people have risen to wealth, but unless the Black nations are liberated–Black people are oppressed. And there is no liberation without unity. You can say what you want about a Chinese person–but they have been taught to be proud of their Chinese heritage. And you will see Chinese helping Chinese. You will see the Chinese ready to fight for China. It’s time that Africans learn from the East.

Black Joy

Living in a small, white racist town has really made me contain my joy. Anytime, I leave my house–it’s usually with a screw face as I encounter beat up jeeps with Confederation flags and creepy white men staring at me in dark shades with fatigue-print caps on. Wherever I go, people stare. I’m not from ’round here. But guess what? I’m here and I’m about to reclaim my ability to express the natural emotion of happiness and joy.

I experience joy when I see (and especially if I get to meet) other Black people in my town, or wherever I happen to be. A  nod of acknowledgment or a “good morning” can set a sista on a brightened journey. No lie. I love when I feel my hair is doing all the talking for me when my lips are too fed up. Unapologetic, KINKY coily hair is beautiful ART.  I feel this so confidently that I feel joyous even in a mediocre hairdo. I experience joy when I maintain class, grace, humility, patience in any situation. I feel my best self emerging and growing. This brings me joy. It brings me joy to walk with a group of Black children, one of them usually being my own. It brings me joy to see my son being himself–wild, coily hair out proud and everything!

It brings me joy to exclusively date Black men and have nothing but loyalty, respect and openness with them. It brings me  joy to be treated like a queen by a Black man–privately and publicly. It brings me joy to view, touch and caress melanated skin. This is almost like therapy! It brings me joy to catch a joke in Patois from my grandma, or to piss the neighbours off when I’m burning my browning before I cook stew or curry (it’s not my fault I use…flavour). It also brings me joy to share a plate of curry with my neighbours, and show them that yes–Black people do care about recycling and putting out the right decorations at the right time of the year. *roll of eyes*

I’ve lost my ability to conceal my joy because I’m expected to be a caricature of suffering and hostility. I find myself grinning, beaming and letting the excitement enter my voice wherever I am. I’m able to let the light shine in my eyes when I’m truly appeased, laugh at myself at the ice rink or the store and stand with my head and my uniquely beautiful coily hair tall. If you want a disgruntled, angry Black female–that isn’t going to be me. I’ve got too much joy because every day I wake up feeling blessed! I’m not going to let someone decide there is no space for happy, carefree Black people. I’m coming for that space, and it’s going to be a magical space. 3

Our Own Culture

Last night, I was Googling reviews for random baby products like co-sleepers, baby carriers and high chairs. The fact baby carriers like Ergo and Beco originate from African mothers carrying their children on their back in cloth fabric–I didn’t see even one Black family on any of my Google searches. I didn’t see one, cute little chocolate baby featured on any of the baby clothing websites I checked out locally in my city, nation-wide and then Internet-wide. After an exhaustive search, I did see a cute Black tot wearing an adorable onesie on Mini Mioche. Why weren’t Black children being featured in other ads like Minimoc and Wee Woolies–two brands I adore?

I realized when I noticed the designs–woodland creatures, fairies and mute geometric shapes on neutral colours–that this is their visual of childhood style. And it probably ties in with their own Irish, German, British, etc folklore. When you buy organic, wooden Waldorf toys for your child–you will get white fairies and white gnomes. I thought infancy and childhood should really be the same for every child, but these companies don’t. They are catering to white families. Good for them!

We need not be disheartened. Black culture is growing, growing, growing like a baby in utero! I made a list of Black-owned businesses selling everything I was looking for from organic wooden toys to moccasins and came up with a long, long list and similar prices–but with our own culture stamped right in it. Kente print, mudcloth, dashikis–you name it–and there they were. Bamboo toys from Africa–even African-print cloth diapers! It was difficult to find a Black-owned baby carrier company, but Boba did offer African-inspired prints (for a limited time) for their wraps. I’ve seen mothers customize their regular baby carriers with African print cloth so really, we just need to do what we’ve been doing. Being creative, innovative and sticking to our culture because there’s no reason to sidestep it for unicorns and moose when we have most beautiful, ancient  continent in the world as our origin!

African Relations with the Diaspora

We, as Black people, can only reach liberation by uniting. Colourism, tribal feuds and classism are only some of the things that are dividing us and having some Black people look down their nose at others.

I read some comments on a Naija forum about Africans studying abroad feeling horror when associated with Black Americans. To be honest,  I have never met a Black American.  I’m a Canadian- born woman with parents from the Caribbean.

Some of the viewpoints of Africans in the Motherland is that we are ignorant,  no-good Blacks whose history started with slavery and we think we are better than Africans because of our citizenship. We are all gangbangers and welfare recipients who can’t get out of poverty because we are lazy.

Meanwhile,  many people  (including  myself) in the Diaspora was taught to believe Africa is a place of cannibalistic savages, extreme poverty and sexism with high rates of female illiteracy, and the home of The Lion King. We considered ourselves superior and some of us even mocked thick African accents and incomprehensible names to our subjugated minds.

However,  the truth is, Blacks in the Diaspora originated from Africa. We are your sisters and brothers taken from your village, your country, your continent.  There is no need to look down on us because some of us don’t have the same drive to success as Contintental Africans. There is no need for us to look down on you for what we may consider to be less civilized ways of living.

We need a better future for Black people everywhere- -from Tokyo to London to Accra. We need to stop listening to this divisive stereotypes and embrace each other.  Africans are not taught the history of the Diaspora,  and we are not taught the history of Africa. Both histories are integrated and the only way to stop the African- Diasporan divide is to have dialogue and find out similarities.  The Diasporan community has an obligation to learn about African culture and history and values,  politics, art, literature- -everything.  And Africans would be wise to see a powerful ally if they could just empathize and realize that we need each other because we ARE each other  .

Religion vs Revolution

I joined a church this summer after being invited by my Kenyan hair braider. She is in fire for the Lord, and I only went because we live in a racist, rural town and I was desperate to see Black faces. There were Black children for my son to interact with, and not only were the pews filled with Kente cloth and dashiki-clad families, the pastor was Jamaican.

I’m from a Christian family, like most West Indians but as an adult I am highly critical of the church and it’s role in maintaining Black oppression. The church could be a revolutionary place. But instead of touching on freedom from white supremacy, it only speaks of a better life in Heaven…not on this earth. Great way to pacify the masses, pastor.

However, in the church there is Black pride. There are more married Black families and college students. There are more natural hairdos. There is more respect for one another. So I do not dismiss the church as a place for revolutionary work. Perhaps you can meet a compatriot there, a future spouse or an acquaintance who furthers your economic growth. And if not, it never hurts to have God on your side!